LAHORE: Fearing a second wave of coronavirus following a sudden surge in the number of positive cases, the Punjab government has enforced ‘micro smart lockdowns’ in all 36 districts of the province to curtail the spread of the virus.
The surge was witnessed particularly following the reopening of educational institutes in Punjab and continued violation of the Covid-19 guidelines at public places, government offices, and business points.
Of the 36 districts, the situation was particularly distressing in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Hafizabad and Gujrat for reporting more number of Covid-19 positive cases.
According to an official report, the Punjab government has enforced 856 “micro smart lockdowns” in all 36 districts of the province restricting 7,295 citizens to their residences. The lockdowns were proposed following the detection of 1,235 Covid-19 positive patients in these districts.
Two micro smart lockdowns were proposed in Lahore with 520 patients and 123 in Rawalpindi over 177 positive cases.
Govt formulating new SOPs for public gatherings, including protest rallies, Urs
Similarly, 40 such lockdowns were proposed for 66 Covid-19 patients in Gujranwala, 42 for 64 patients in Faisalabad, 42 for 64 patients in Gujrat, 40 for 66 patients in Hafizabad, 40 for 46 patients in Jhang, 26 for 47 patients in Multan, 23 for 32 patients in Nankana Sahib, 12 in Mandi Bahauddin for 22 patients, 12 in Sahiwal for 19 patients, 24 in Sargodha for 32 patients, 15 in Sialkot for 23 patients, 11 in Toba Tek Singh for 19 patients, and 12 in Bahawalpur for 32 Covid-19 patients.
The data was also presented in a meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre held a couple of days back where the officials expressed serious concern over the upsurge in the cases in Punjab, an official said.
He said that medical experts from various health facilities also alerted the government authorities about the rising Covid-19 cases, calling for prompt measures to avoid a second wave. The experts were of the view that partial lockdowns were not a solution and suggested ensuring writ of the government in implementation of the guidelines in letter and spirit and increase the test capacity to analyse the true impact of the disease.
Meanwhile, the primary and secondary healthcare department reported 115 new cases of Covid-19 from across the province during the last 24 hours, taking the total number to 100,148 so far since the outbreak.
The data showed that the number of deaths reached 2,242 in Punjab after two more critical patients of the virus died during the same period.
The department claimed that 10,066 tests were conducted all over the province in the last 24 hours.
Most cases of the virus in the province, 50,217, were reported in Lahore where the death toll was 868 since the pandemic broke out.
Meanwhile, it is also feared that the opposition parties’ protest rallies and other public gatherings may propel the infection.
“The PPP government in Sindh is now heading towards imposing lockdowns in Karachi, but planning mass protest rallies, which may lead to increase in coronavirus cases in Punjab,” an official in the chief minister’s secretariat told Dawn.
On the other hand, the Punjab government is preparing new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for public gatherings -- protest rallies or Urs -- and directing the respective district deputy commissioners to ask organisers of the gatherings to ensure their implementation.
Earlier in the day, the Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus at chief minister’s house discussed the inability to control the coronavirus resurgence. Primary and Secondary Healthcare Secretary retired Capt Muhammad Usman stressed the need to take preventive measures after the increase in positive cases in Sindh. “If people will not take precautions, smart lockdown can be resumed in high-risk districts and areas,” he said.
At the meeting, Law Minister Basharat Raja lamented that no precautionary measures -- wearing of masks and social distancing – were witnessed in public gatherings across the province. He directed the respective deputy commissioners to ensure complete implementation of the new SOPs.
Even in marriage halls, Mr Raja said, the SOPs were being flouted, which was raising fears of a resurgence of the virus. He directed the district administrations across the province to ensure implementation of SOPs in marriage halls, educational institutions and all public places, and also launch a massive public awareness campaign in the media.
Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid also attended the meeting.
Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2020